12 December 2021

Large gathering of Hypocolius - Haradh

Hypocolius are quite a difficult species to see, as they occur in regions that are not so easy to access like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and are a short-distance migrant. Small numbers remain in western Iran throughout year but the majority migrate south and east to their main wintering areas in southern Iran, Pakistan, western India, west and central Saudi Arabia, and Arabian Gulf States (notably Bahrain). Departure from the breeding areas mainly occurs in August with birds arriving back in April. In Saudi Arabia as a whole, they are an uncommon, but may be a locally common, winter visitor to Eastern and Central Arabia, Northern Hejaz, Hejaz and Northern Red Sea. Flocks of over 100 birds have been recorded in Riyadh each winter. Last winter Phil Roberts found a large flock of up to 200 birds in Haradh and we managed to find approximately the same number in a similar area when we visited at the end of November. The area where these birds were was slightly different to those I have seen before with most records occurring where there are palm trees. These birds were feeding in an area of vegetation next to large pivot irrigation fields and returning to some large acacia bushes at the side of a track. The birds were, as always, quite noisy calling to each other but never settle long enough for good photos.